“He’s a key player. But no excuses this time of year,” said captain Jonathan Toews.
But the fact is that Hossa is tied for the team lead in points, and the Chicago offense was punchless – especially on the power play, where Hossa ranks fourth in average ice time.
His loss was significant; the timing of that loss made things downright chaotic.
The Blackhawks were aware that Hossa may not play earlier on Monday, although the star winger participated in practice. He took warmups before Game 3, but was a late scratch.
But despite knowing Hossa was questionable for Game 3, it wasn’t Smith in warmups before the game. Jamal Mayers, a scratch in every playoff game for the Blackhawks, took the warmup.
Why? Speculation is that Quenneville might have been mulling another lineup change. But when Hossa went down, he called a huge audible and opted for Smith, a sparkplug player who can bring some offense.
Smith was told he’d be playing about 20 minutes before the puck dropped.
“I didn’t really know what was going on. I was ready to ride the bike and work out, as we do in the first,” he said.
“It was a scramble to get ready and get warm.”
Smith played 10:23 and was a minus-1. The Blackhawks went 0-for-5 on the power play, and are now 0-for-11 with the man advantage.
So what happened to Hossa? Initial reports that he was injured taking a shot, or being hit with one, in warmups were erroneous. Coach Joel Quenneville said it’s an “upper-body injury” for Hossa.
“We'll say day-to-day. We're hopeful he'll be ready for the next game. It was a game-time decision after the warm-up there. That's when we made the call, after warm-up,” he said.
Even if there was a chance it could happen, the Blackhawks were left scrambling when it did happen. Why choose a player to fill Hossa’s role that didn’t even skate the warmup?
“Benny, he can play both sides of the puck, brings a responsible game. That's what we're looking for,” said Quenneville.
Coach Claude Julien of the Bruins watched the odd drama play out.
“I was surprised as anybody else,” he said. “I can definitely tell you they lost a pretty important player on their roster, but that doesn't mean we change our game. I think it's important we stick with what we believe in.”
The Bruins did, and are up 2-1. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, felt the blow of losing arguably their most consistent forward this postseason, and scrambled to fill the hole.
“It’s happens sometimes when you’re missing one of your best players, but you have find a way to play without him,” said Toews.
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